August 14, 2013

Louisiana hostage-taker was high school football star

By Holbrook Mohr and Michael Kunzelman / The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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Investigators work during the early-morning hours Wednesday at the Tensas State Bank branch in St. Joseph, La., where a gunman took three people hostage Tuesday.

The Associated Press

The hostages were both shot with a handgun. Edmonson said Ahmed also had a duffel bag containing items he was going to use to torture the hostages.

"His intent was to inflict pain and kill these individuals," Edmonson said.

Authorities say Ahmed didn't use what was in the bag. State police didn't immediately say what was in it.

Jones said Ahmed had recently traveled to California and Yemen, returning two or three weeks ago. Jones said at some point he'd been receiving treatment for mental issues.

Still, the gunman's brother told the sheriff he hadn't displayed any signs of violence recently.

Jones said the note listed a number of people who Ahmed thought contributed to his problems. Jones said Ahmed wrote that he didn't want to be arrested or given mental health treatment. He wanted to leave the country.

Edmonson said Ahmed's parents were from Yemen, but he was a U.S. citizen. The detailed list of grievances and demands gave no indication that he had a political or religious motive, Edmonson said.

On a Facebook page under Ahmed's name, Ahmed describes himself as a native of Fresno, Calif. The page includes photos of him smiling and wearing a baseball cap backward, and with friends.

Ahmed discusses philosophy of life from the Tao Te Ching, a 6th-century BC Chinese text, and is a fan of comedian Jerry Seinfield, rapper Eminem and Islam. He makes no specific references to political or religious extremism.

But recent posts show a darker side. In a post on Sunday, he displays a cartoon strip in which a gunman and negotiators discuss whether a hostage's life is worth a sandwich.

Ahmed's next-door neighbor, Nelda Bass, said she heard a single gunshot on Monday afternoon and saw Ahmed holding a rifle in his yard when she went outside to look around. He went inside when he saw her, and she didn't call police at the time.

James and Angie Hayden live across the street from the one-story red brick house where Ahmed lived and cashed their checks at the store where he worked.

"The one that did the shooting, we saw him weekly," Angie Hayden said. "We cashed our checks there. A very nice boy. We wouldn't have expected this."

James Hayden said he heard a loud bang the morning of the standoff and went outside to look around. He said he saw Ahmed outside, but didn't think much of it at the time.

A high school teammate, 18-year-old Neal Brown, said that Ahmed was outgoing, funny and popular with boys and girls at the private school. He said that Ahmed wasn't much of a partier like other students because he spent long hours working at the family business in addition to playing football.

"He was just the most amazing person there was. He was just the funniest," Brown said.

He added that Ahmed appeared to change after he graduated but didn't elaborate.

Ahmed's teammates voted him team captain his senior year, Durham said.

"I know the stigma about the South and how they don't accept outsiders. But this kid, he had kind of the American dream of a high-school career," he said.

"Something went wrong. He was an outstanding young man. That's what, to me, makes this so tragic. He strayed so far. I'm just baffled."

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